The Russian-Ukraine war has displaced millions since it broke out earlier this year. However, aside from the hordes of people that have fled the conflict are also captive and wild animals. Among the creatures caught in the crossfire between the warring nations were 11 lions, formerly living at a Ukrainian zoo. Thanks to the efforts of multiple international wildlife organizations, the big cats were airlifted to Colorado following what has officially become the largest warzone rescue of lions ever.
According to Cision PR Newswire, nine lions safely landed at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado on Thursday, September 29th. Before making their way to the states, the pride originally resided at the Bio Park Zoo in Odessa. Odessa, a southern port in Ukraine, eventually became severely impacted by the war. In an effort to move the animals out of harm’s way, the lions were relocated via a convoy that traveled over 600 miles across both Ukraine and Moldova. The convoy reached its next destination—Targu Mures, Romania—on May 24th.
Per the outlet, the lions remained in the Targu Mures Zoo for several months. That was temporary though until contributing organizations could obtain emergency travel permits for the lions to board a rescue flight. After rescuers obtained the permits, nine of the lions were sent to CO’s The Wild Animal Refuge, connected with The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Of the nine lions now permanently living in CO, seven are mature adults and two are cubs. The remaining pair of lions were then sent to the Simbonga Game Reserve and Sanctuary in Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Meet the People Who Spearheaded the Massive Lion Rescue:
Airlifting 11 lions out of a wartorn country sounds like a massive problem in itself. But getting multiple international welfare and rescue agencies to work together to find a pride of lions new homes is surely no easy task either.
Per the outlet, there were several involved organizations. These include Greater Good, The Global Federation of Wildlife Sanctuaries (GFAS), Tigers in America, Warriors of Wildlife, and the Simbonga Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. Each of the aforementioned agencies and organizations has a crucial role in the maintenance of endangered and at-risk wildlife.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary held a key part in the lions’ rescue. They represent the largest nonprofit carnivore sanctuary in the world, home to lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and leopards, among others. Greater Good is a global organization that strives to help people, pets, and the planet as a whole.
GFAS aids in strengthening and supporting the work of wildlife sanctuaries, rescues, and rehabilitation centers internationally. And finally, we have Tigers in America. Their name is evocative of the large, black and orange striped creatures that have featured so heavily in pop culture, however, the organization aims to represent all large predatorial felines. Aside from tigers, Tigers in America, based out of New York, also aids in the seizure and protection of lions, leopards, mountain lions, cheetahs, and jaguars.
Recalling the difficulties of the most recent lion rescue, Pat Craig, executive director of The Wild Life Sanctuary said, “We are thankful we could get all the lions out in time and save them. That’s what matters. They will live out the rest of their lives in pristine, large, natural habitats.”